First Transit partnership testing shared autonomous vehicle services in Minnesota


First Transit is continuing its leadership in the testing of shared autonomous vehicle (SAV) transportation systems, and is partnering with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), French autonomous shuttle manufacturer, EasyMile, and the 3M group, to demonstrate SAVs capabilities in winter weather.

As one of North America’s largest private-sector providers of public transport and mobility services, First Transit has been offering free rides in the SAV to the general public in downtown Minneapolis. Free rides have also been offered to visitors during the week of the 2018 Super Bowl, which is being held in the city this weekend.

First Transit is supporting the project with on-site personnel, operations and maintenance support for the SAV. The EasyMile EZ10 shuttle is expected to be in Minnesota until at least April. The driverless, electric-powered SAV can transport up to 12 people (6 seated, 6 standing) and operates on pre-mapped routes.

Following its operational trials in Minneapolis city center, the vehicle will undergo a series of tests under winter weather conditions at MnDOT’s MnROAD research center until the end of March. This closed-loop facility is not open to other traffic and allows for safely testing the vehicle in snow, ice, cold weather, and salt-covered road conditions.

The EZ10 will also be used in operational trials at other locations around the state. 3M is partnering with MnDOT on the SAV project, providing sensor technology testing on the autonomous shuttle bus, and offering custom vehicle wraps for use on the EZ10. The company is also supplying smart code technology and machine vision detection services.

First Transit currently has three other SAV projects underway across the USA:

The company announced the first autonomous passenger shuttle pilot in North America, and is conducting trials with two vehicles at the Bishop Ranch Office Park in San Ramon, California;

First Transit signed an exclusive partnership with the Contra Costa Transportation Authority to conduct autonomous vehicle research at the agency’s GoMentum Station test facility in Concord;

In Texas, the company is partnering with Arlington Convention and Visitors Bureau, with two SAVs offering convenient transportation connecting sports fans heading to Globe Life Park, home of the Texas Rangers, and the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium, from parking lots surrounding both venues.

“We are proud to be leading the way in SAV technology and innovation,” said Justin Pate, senior vice president of First Transit. “As SAV technology is changing at a quick pace, we are excited to be at the forefront.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).